A short story by
Extraordinary was not a word ever used to describe Jo. In fact, she could of lived out her days in Princeton Wisconsin without much notice or attention. The fourth of five children, she didn?t even have the luxury of experiencing the angst of middle child syndrome her older brother reveled in. Her marks were average, considered too awkward for sports, and her interests never developed into any remarkable talent. An average kid growing up in an average family living in an average town. Average. This was a state of being she resigned herself to, and happily so. Afterall, it wasn?t the worst life that could?ve have been dealt her.
Three weeks after her fourteenth birthday, average would no longer be an option. In the beginning her family, friends, and community held on to hope but eventually even that slipped as the “year of darkness” turned into three. Her family?s new reality was that her baby brother, Tim, was never coming home again. They would never find him and his file would be shelved. Oddly enough it wasn?t talked about in her home. Her family wouldn?t emerge the same and neither would Mary Josephine Canton.
The two older sisters had started their adult lives. Katherine got hired on with a local lawyer as a secretary and Sarah married with her second on the way. Jo and James were left in a quiet house, a shell where a family once lived. James was only fourteen months older than Jo and was starting the University of Wisconsin on a scholarship.
Her parents continued to live but without real human connection. Everyone in town meant well, but eventually interaction with the Canton?s were avoided if possible. No one could face the despair they found in their eyes without feeling guilt over their own good fortunes.
It was a Tuesday. Little did she know that day would change her life. Jo grabbed the mail on her way in the door and headed straight for the icebox. A pop in hand, she plopped down on the couch settling in to read the latest in women?s fashion. The style she favored was british Mod although her friends idolized Jackie Kennedy. She even cut her hair that year into a boy?s cut which her mother never understood. The British Invasion turned her on to the waif style but she continued to study others. She had a fascination that bordered on obsession. Her one escape the last couple of years was fashion. It was a comforting fantasy and far removed from Wisconsin. Somewhere out there women sparkled.
The telephone rudely brought her back to her dark living room.
She could hear her mother in muffled tones as she tried to close the door to the dining room as best she could. Jo didn?t pay much attention to her until she saw her face as she walked by. She knew that face. Someone was dead.
“Mom?”, she hesitated a question as she opened her bedroom door.
“Honey, Papaw is dead.” Her mother said it so definitely as she stared right through her. Papaw was her mother?s last living parent and her sun.
Jo closed the door without bothering to be quiet as her mother reached for her bag by the bed. Her mother had already gone to that place where Jo felt she wasn?t welcome. She knew she couldn?t help her mother but as always, prayed the pills would.
Without much conscious thought, she walked into her bedroom and reached under the bed to open a carefully packed bag. She had prepared for this moment even though the suffocating fear of living her own life was ever present. She had some money saved from her Grandmother?s small inheritance. It was enough.
Taking a break from her typewriter, Jo stared out the window of her flat. A hint of a smile appeared as she remembered how little courage it actually takes to change the course of one?s life. She made her way to London with hope for a “new thing” driving the way.
She knew no one. She had no where to go. She had nothing. London was enough.
Her new friend, whom she optimistically named London, was content to live a cat?s life on the street as long as Jo was there and later the two settled into whatever home they were welcomed in. The fashion industry never knew Jo which was perfectly fine with her. She had made her own life where women sparkled.